Almost at peace with my life

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Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Sat Dec 05, 2015 7:39 am

What brings you to Liberation Unleashed?:
I've always been searching for the truth, mainly out in the world since I have been drawn to do that. This has reached its limit as I knew it would. I feel I am ready for the next step - this step. I've been watching non-duality videos (Paul Hedderman, Jac O'Keeffe, others).

What do you expect of the conversation on this forum?:
That it will help facilitate a transformation. I need a little nudge out the door, so to speak.

What is your background in terms of seeking and inquiry?:
In my early life I was an atheist, and my intellect was in control.

From 2003 to 2013 I was a member of a Kabbalistic mystery school whose approach was based on symbology. I left because it was not working for me. I didn't replace it with anything formal - I just let life unfold.

I'm losing interest in most things and I am happy about it. I am at peace in my daily life. My intellectual side is much better balanced with a feeling side.

Recently I have got frustrated with all these years of knowing a truth intellectually but not experientially. I feel I am ready and I believe I can "do" it. I also feel that I'd like to be useful but that my ignorance is an obstacle because my mind can only think of selfish things.

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby KevinD » Sat Dec 05, 2015 10:28 pm

Hi Blackh,

I'd be happy to help you if you like.
It seems you've done a lot of the heavy lifting already, if we can call it that.

You and I will simply have a conversation, the aim of which will be for you to make the realisation that there is no 'self'. That will be our focus. I will tend to ask various questions and set you some exercises, but nobody will be judging you. You can't get this wrong.
This process is a guided inquiry where specific areas can be examined. I am not a teacher. This is YOUR inquiry. I will not be giving you new ideas and beliefs; only assisting you in examining and questioning the ones that you already have.

Okay, let's get down to business.
A few preliminaries to get out of the way first.
  • You agree to post at least once a day, even if only to say, "still here!"
  • I am not your teacher, all I can do is point, you look, until clear seeing happens.
  • In general, I will ask questions, you look deeply and honestly, and respond.
  • Responses require simple, uncontrived honest looking. There are no wrong or right answers.
  • Responses are best from direct experience (felt senses and observed thoughts). Long-winded analytical and philosophical answers, and stream of consciousness answers are best avoided and may even hinder progress.
  • Put aside all other teachings, philosophies and such for the remainder of this investigation. Really put all your effort and attention into seeing this reality, as it is. If you have a daily and essential meditation practice, it is fine to continue that.
  • Please learn to use the quote function; See these instructions

If you haven't already seen it, there is intro info here, our disclaimer and a short video too.
For the sake of your success, I ask that you be 100 per cent honest. If you can manage that, this process will be much more efficient.

For ease of seeing, my questions will appear in bold text.

If you could confirm you have seen all the above and would like me to be your guide - then we shall begin.

What are your expectations for this process?
How will it change you?
How will this feel?


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"Don't ask the mind to confirm what is beyond the mind. Direct experience is the only valid confirmation."
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:09 am

Pleased to meet you, Kevin. I completely agree to all your bullet points, and I am committed to this process. I am really, really grateful to you.

I think I may be close. A little more background: I was fearful and depressed in my 20s but in my 30s I accepted my own mortality and was no longer afraid of death and that pretty much eliminated all fear from my life. I'm 45 now. You may be right that I have done a lot of the heavy lifting. I haven't known anyone who could judge that, though, so it's encouraging that you think that might be so.

Six months ago I started a spiritual programme which meant I have meditated one hour a day. I suspended this programme about three weeks ago when I started looking at non-duality videos. The meditation has made my mind really quiet. I get thoughts and I can get lost in them, but it is as if they are muted/wrapped in soundproofing material. If I ignore them I can focus on present circumstances well.

Two days ago I had this experience: In the morning I thought... Hey, maybe I am enlightened. In the past I would have been afraid to say that in case it turned out not to be true and I got disappointed. But I felt completely unconcerned by everything (including whether I am enlightened or not) yet engaged in everything. I felt basically the same as normal - as if I am a person in a body. Same kinds of "I" thoughts but I didn't care about them. But everything was beautiful, I was really enjoying everything, and I felt like I was somehow connected with all of life going on around me. I felt like I was watching myself including the "I" thoughts, and it half felt as though I was controlling things and half not. When I asked myself "Is there an I?" I had a confusion (that I was unconcerned about) about what this even meant. There was nothing intense about the experience.

That afternoon my phone screwed up and I got frustrated and my bubble burst but I wasn't all that worried about it. I feel happy now and a little bit like two days ago but not as much, and I trust that I will "get there".

To answer your questions:
What are your expectations for this process?
I have not had an "aha" moment as such but I would not be surprised if this process were a gentle one for me. If it's not, then that's fine too. I am hoping you can help me really grasp that there is no "I" and clear up some confusion.
How will it change you?
I will see the world more truthfully so I can explore the real world instead of wasting energy on an imaginary one. My body will be more useful to the world.
How will this feel?
Peaceful, joyful and loving.

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby KevinD » Sun Dec 06, 2015 2:20 am

Hi Blackh,

(Is that what I should call you? Or are you more comfortable with something else? I'm easy either way.)

Thank you for the additional background, it helps.
I started looking at non-duality videos
For the duration of this process, please put away the books and videos. Let's give this a chance on its own.
In the morning I thought... Hey, maybe I am enlightened.
If there's a sense that there's an "I" that's enlightened, it could be telling. No worries, we'll get around to that.
I will see the world more truthfully so I can explore the real world instead of wasting energy on an imaginary one. My body will be more useful to the world.
Please let go of any expectations of what this process will or will not bring.
It's been my experience that expectations only serve as a hindrance to clear seeing.

You think you can drop all expectations?

Now, speaking of "I", let's take a closer look.
Remember, these questions are just me pointing. You observe in direct experience (with your felt sense in this very moment) and report back.

What comes up when it is read that there is absolutely no “you” in any way, shape or form, there never has been a “you”, nor is there or will be there ever be?

When you say "I", what does that refer to in direct experience? Please describe in detail – does it have a shape? A size? A quality?


Nice to be working with you, Blackh,

Kevin
"Don't ask the mind to confirm what is beyond the mind. Direct experience is the only valid confirmation."
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Sun Dec 06, 2015 4:25 am

Kevin, Thanks! My name is Steve so you can call me that.
If there's a sense that there's an "I" that's enlightened, it could be telling. No worries, we'll get around to that.
I've been deluded all my life so the probability is high I am still deluded. I will be honest about how I feel. If I am wrong, then I get to the truth faster.
For the duration of this process, please put away the books and videos.
I definitely will not do any of that. I need to focus on self-observation. I consider the present work to be hugely important so I will apply myself.
Please let go of any expectations of what this process will or will not bring.
Yes, I think I can drop all expectations. I accept my ignorance.
What comes up when it is read that there is absolutely no “you” in any way, shape or form, there never has been a “you”, nor is there or will be there ever be?
This rings true and I see the "I" concept as a liability. I am not afraid, because I think I am not afraid of death (the "I" concept is clearly still believed here). Of course my fearlessness could evaporate in a heartbeat if it were actually tested. I will not be surprised if this happens.
When you say "I", what does that refer to in direct experience? Please describe in detail – does it have a shape? A size? A quality?
Here is what I think "I" means and whether I believe each thing is true (meaning "existing in direct experience") or not:
  • A perceiver/experiencer of objects and circumstances [NOT SURE]
    Awareness itself is a fact, but my understanding of how it relates to objects and circumstances is almost certainly wrong.
  • That which decides/chooses [NOT SURE]
  • Director of the body [NOT SURE]
  • Feels like "I" am located in the head, extending downwards a bit. [TRUE - this bodily sensation is related to the location of the eyes - the dominant sense, and this is a fact of the body. So I believe this is a function of the body and can't change.]
  • A character in memories and imaginings of the future [FALSE]
  • Owner therefore protector of the body / reputation (upset when insulted) / beliefs (upset when challenged) [FALSE]
  • Proud of achievements / ashamed of failures [FALSE]
  • Evolving list of likes / dislikes [FALSE]
  • Victim of disliked experiences, enjoyer of liked ones [FALSE]
  • Fearful / hopeful of future [FALSE]
Quality: It looks like a void with thoughts, feeling and memories appearing and disappearing "in front of" it. Since things appear and disappear, it looks like the void is a veil with hidden things underneath it. Nothing can be seen beyond the veil or in the void (whichever it is in reality).

Shape/size as described above (located in the head) but it is like Dr. Who's Tardis in that it's bigger on the inside than on the outside, and the inside does appear to have a size of about two metres. Very odd. I assume the whole spatial aspect is a projection and isn't real.

For a long time I have professed ignorance on the question of who I am. I can only describe shifting personality traits, likes, etc.

Steve

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby KevinD » Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:16 am

Great stuff, Steve,

You covered a lot of ground there.
If you don't mind we will tackle these one by one.

Let's look at self as the experiencer.

  • In direct experience, can you find an “I” that experiences experience?

  • Is there a seer separate from the seen?

  • Is there a hearer that hears?
Good to be under way,

Kevin
"Don't ask the mind to confirm what is beyond the mind. Direct experience is the only valid confirmation."
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Sun Dec 06, 2015 9:44 pm

Can I find an "I"? I've been mapping this out.

With my eyes closed there is a non-spatial "field" of awareness that looks like a void. There's awareness of sound, awareness of thought and awareness of the body. Awareness of sound is "wrapped in" a concept of space that flattens out of I close one ear. Awareness of the body is "wrapped in" a concept of "I" and as far as I can tell it is the same mechanism that constructs space out of sound. The same mechanism also constructs a space or separation between the apparent body and the apparent sound.

A similar mechanism places another layer of interpretation on top based on memory, producing cars, birds, someone blowing their nose, etc.

These three awarenesses are simultaneous and overlaid. Attention can shift to make any part of this experience dominant. There is an apparent choice of where that attention goes (which we haven't got to yet). Something can be ignored so it's possible to put attention on sound and not the body so "I" of the body almost disappears, but the habit of assuming "I" is in the body is ingrained, so it is difficult to do.

I tried to do this just now and it was harder than ever, as if the "I" knows my intention and doesn't want to be ignored.

If I open my eyes then awareness of sight is a fourth thing overlaid on experience and the construction of space and interpretation works the same way as for hearing.

I can't see anything I have missed in experience. The void could be and may be assumed to be a veil with an "I" hiding behind it Wizard of Oz style but anything I can never see might as well not exist.

Thanks again, Steve.

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:55 am

To summarize - I've tried to map out experience, and I can't find any justification to believe in a separate experiencer. Emotions are missing from what I said, but they are connected with thoughts so I would put them in the same category.

Steve

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby KevinD » Mon Dec 07, 2015 6:15 pm

Hi Steve,

Sorry for the delay.
I read this about four times before determining where I needed to seek clarification on this observing.

What is this "wrapping" of space and I that seems to be occurring around awareness?

How does a "similar mechanism" produce cars, birds, etc.?
If I open my eyes then awareness of sight is a fourth thing overlaid on experience and the construction of space and interpretation works the same way as for hearing.
Where are all these things or layers coming from?


Thanks,

Kevin
"Don't ask the mind to confirm what is beyond the mind. Direct experience is the only valid confirmation."
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Mon Dec 07, 2015 9:39 pm

Kevin,

Take your time. I am grateful.
What is this "wrapping" of space and I that seems to be occurring around awareness?
I could talk about "the brain" here but you and I both want me to stick to describing everything in terms of direct experience.

In regards to hearing: There are raw sounds coming from two ears, and the first thing the mind does (it appears) is to find the differences between the two ears and use those to construct an image of the sounds occurring in space: "a high pitched sound top left, a hiss right." If I block one ear, it looks flatter but the mind can still construct space using other cues.

This looks like a raw sound has been arranged into a 3D image made of thought stuff, so it looks like the sound is contained or wrapped in a structure of thought stuff. I don't know whether the raw sound contained inside the thought structure has a different substance because it is real (i.e. sensory) or whether it's just more thoughts.

Something factual - the sound itself - has been built into something imaginary. It may have some correspondence to the physical world, but the 3D image of the world in the mind is just a thought structure. (I am speaking as if the physical world exists independently of the mind, but I have only ever had shifting theories around this question.)

The mechanism for producing an "I" around the body seems similar. There's a factual raw sensation of the body, and a concept of an "I" existing in the sensory world of space is built around it. Then we get "I am here and there's a bird above me". The constructed "I" around the bodily sensation seems strong in comparison to the strength of the body sensation itself and isn't related to the strength of it. If I am in pain, I don't become more "I" than usual.

If I were in a sensory deprivation tank, I presume the spatial "I" concept would stick around for a while. I don't know what would happen to the "I" after hours or days with no body sensation to be built around.

As for sight, it's similar: Around the video input of two eyes, a spatial world of mind stuff (concepts?) is constructed. Close one eye and it loses some of its 3D qualities but can still be constructed from other cues. At this level it's sorted into shapes that are assigned positions in space.
How does a "similar mechanism" produce cars, birds, etc.?
On top of the construction of space for sound there seems to be another layer of interpretation where "high pitched sound top left" becomes "bird chirping" based on pattern recognition and memory, and "hiss right" becomes car.

Similarly for sight. This layer of interpretation happens very quickly (1/10th of a second or less) and can be wrong: I was in a cafe recently and for an instant saw a dog lying on the floor, and about half a second later it became a brown leather bag and stayed that way.

Sight and sound are separate streams but in this mental processing, they are mixed together and information from one is used to fill in gaps in the other, etc.
Where are all these things or layers coming from?
Space and "I" within it are constructed by the cognitive, conceptual part of the mind which looks to me like the same place that thoughts like "I am supposed to do work" come from.

Thoughts appear from nowhere and disappear to nowhere.

Sound and sight are different in appearance to thoughts, but they enter the field of perception in the same way as thoughts do, and they're wrapped in a spatial thought structure. In spite of looking more "solid" than thoughts, they look like they're made of the same stuff as thoughts. They seem to enter the conceptual part of the mind in pre-processed form, seemingly no different to any other thought.

A sight of something and a thought of something function in a very similar way, even though a sight looks more solid. A sight of something and a thought of something have emotions attached to them in exactly the same way. "Oh, that's disgusting!" etc.

I have tried on occasions to see the raw sensory input of sight instead of the interpreted version, but I have never had much success.


Steve

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby KevinD » Tue Dec 08, 2015 3:43 pm

Hi Steve,
Thanks for the clarification. I kind of thought that's where you were going.
Just so long as you're clear those thingsn are conceptual and therefore illusory.
It seems to me you're pretty clear on that.

Let's take a look at self as the controller.

Take a look at this video first (just the delivery, the Q and A is interesting, but not critical.
This will help with thev thing we will now look at.

http://youtu.be/ih6f-0T2Ow0

Select one of your arms - It doesn't matter which.
When you have done that, rest for a moment and then when you want to, raise that arm into the air (or don't).
Examine the actual experience. Do this as many times as you like, and each time inquire…
  • What is this 'I' that is controlling the arm?
  • Can a controlling 'I' be located?
  • What is this 'I' that is choosing which arm to raise?
  • Can you find an 'I' that is doing the choosing?
  • How is decision made?[/b]
Best

Kevin
"Don't ask the mind to confirm what is beyond the mind. Direct experience is the only valid confirmation."
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:18 am

Kevin,

The previous exercise ("Is there a perceiver that perceives?") was fairly familiar territory for me but this exercise (choosing then raising the arm) was a bit surprising. Here's what I got:

What is this 'I' that is controlling the arm?
Can a controlling 'I' be located?
The instruction was "when you want to, raise the arm into the air (or don't)." I looked at the chosen arm and watched as it obeyed the command. The odd thing was that thoughts did not appear to know in advance when it was going to happen. There were several false starts as thoughts started to say "now" but it didn't happen. When it happened, thoughts immediately said "I'm doing that."

I should point out that because I have been watching non-duality videos (just before I started with LU) I am open to the possibility that I have no free will, and that the mind false claims it was the cause of every action. So this could be biasing my observations. On the other hand, if I hadn't seen the videos then I would have been biased towards common ideas of free will.

I tried to see if there was a gap between the hand moving and the thoughts saying "I'm doing that", because this would really show that thoughts are claiming, not directing. There didn't seem to be a gap, but I said in the previous exercise that thoughts can label visual images really quickly, so it's quite possible that if it is mind claiming, that the claiming is happening too quickly for me to notice a gap.

So what caused the hand to go up? It didn't look like thoughts were the cause, but I can't rule that out. It looked like the body was doing it by some means that the mind couldn't see... as if the body had received an instruction "raise when you want to" and was making its own decision on timing.

It's well known that the body can carry out complex behaviour such as driving while the thoughts are obsessed with all the things that might or might not happen on arrival. So it would not be surprising if the body could choose the timing for an instruction "raise the hand when you want to" without thoughts being involved.

I tried thinking "go" one second before raising the arm, and the it went up at the expected time. So, even though in the first experiment, thoughts couldn't predict when the hand went up, it's clear that thoughts can precede (cause? successfully predict?) an action. The cause of the entire exercise can be traced to a thought resulting from reading a post by KevinD, so it's pretty clear that thoughts can cause actions.

What is this 'I' that is choosing which arm to raise?
If you ask me whether I want mango or feijoa the decision is easy - my memory says I like feijoa better. But one hand is not better than the other, and I've always had trouble making arbitrary decisions. The obvious choice is to choose the hand I didn't choose last time, but then I get into an internal debate about whether I should be choosing the same hand or a different hand. So I ended up having to devise this strategy: close my eyes, think RLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRL quickly and then open them and let one of the letters pop out.

The point is, I don't know if it's just me, but there doesn't seem to be any source of non-determinism at work. I seem to need to base the decision on thoughts or sensory input.

Can you find an 'I' that is doing the choosing?
I could only see two players in this drama: thoughts and the body. I can't see any reason to identify with either of those. So no "I" was seen.

This exercise left "me" feeling strangely empty.

How is decision made?
As I mentioned, I couldn't find a source of non-determinism. This is actually the reason why I don't like parties. Most conversations seem to be a game of thought association. Someone will say something, then that will trigger a memory in another person, and they'll talk about that, and so on, in a loop. The only meaningful interactions for me are either talking about practical matters or sitting quietly with someone.

What I'm saying is, it looked like "which hand" was decided in the same sort of way: deterministically based on thoughts.

Conclusion:
In this exercise, I could only see thoughts and the body. The interaction between thoughts and the body wasn't clear, but no choosing or directing "I" was apparent. Determinism was a plausible explanation but can't be proven. I will keep observing this in real life.

This act wasn't very creative. There could be free will in creative acts like writing music, perhaps.


Steve

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Wed Dec 09, 2015 4:20 pm

Dream just now: Hurtling down the road in a van and not being able to find the brakes. This is a recurring theme in my dreams. Obvious interpretation? (no free will).

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby KevinD » Wed Dec 09, 2015 5:01 pm

Hi Steve,
There were several false starts as thoughts started to say "now" but it didn't happen. When it happened, thoughts immediately said "I'm doing that.”
Not uncommon at all.
The mind is trying to co-opt the experience in an effort to maintain the illusion of control.
There didn't seem to be a gap, but I said in the previous exercise that thoughts can label visual images really quickly, so it's quite possible that if it is mind claiming, that the claiming is happening too quickly for me to notice a gap.
Good observing.
So what caused the hand to go up? It didn't look like thoughts were the cause, but I can't rule that out. It looked like the body was doing it by some means that the mind couldn't see... as if the body had received an instruction "raise when you want to" and was making its own decision on timing.
Keep looking.

The cause of the entire exercise can be traced to a thought resulting from reading a post by KevinD, so it's pretty clear that thoughts can cause actions.
Find the the precise choice point.
Was it when you said “go?” or when you became ready to say “go” or when you read a post from KevinD or when you started this process of guiding? When exactly was this choice point?
Exactly.
And point out the cause of the action if you can.

The point is, I don't know if it's just me, but there doesn't seem to be any source of non-determinism at work. I seem to need to base the decision on thoughts or sensory input.
What is this “I” that seems to need to base decisions on anything?
This exercise left "me" feeling strangely empty.
Good.

In this exercise, I could only see thoughts and the body.
We’re going to get into the thoughts and the body in a bit.
For now, keep looking at this and see what else you can discover.

Nice work,

Kevin
"Don't ask the mind to confirm what is beyond the mind. Direct experience is the only valid confirmation."
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Re: Almost at peace with my life

Postby blackh » Thu Dec 10, 2015 2:17 pm

Kevin,

This is hard. I may have some of it wrong and will need to keep working at it. New observations/hypothesis:

If I do the exercise as you said ("when you want to, raise the arm into the air (or don't)"), then it looks like the thought/feeling ("I'm doing this") and the action start at the same time. If instead, the intention is changed to "when I want to, I will say "go" in my mind then raise my arm shortly after", then the thought "go" comes, and "I'm doing this" feeling can start before the action. "go" also has an intentional feel to it.

Yesterday I observed I couldn't see any gap in which "I'm doing this" came after the start of the action. I am now observing that "I'm doing this" is before the action, and sometimes immediately before.

When the intention includes a component of "when you want to" then nothing happens for a while, then "I'm doing this" followed by the action occurs. The mechanics of deciding when to act are invisible so the action appears to come out of nowhere.

I mentioned that I got some false starts in which "I'm doing this" came briefly but no action. This doesn't fit neatly into the new hypothesis.

Summary: We start with an intention thought containing "when I want to". The mind acts on this invisibly with the result that at a later time a new intention "do it now" arises from nowhere, accompanied by an "I'm doing this" feeling and the body performs the action. If the action is replaced by 'when I want to, think "go" and then perform the action', then 'think "go"' effectively just becomes part of the action.
Find the the precise choice point.
Was it when you said “go?” or when you became ready to say “go” or when you read a post from KevinD or when you started this process of guiding? When exactly was this choice point?
Exactly.
And point out the cause of the action if you can.
I can't find a choice point. In this exercise the mind appears to be a logic engine that's capable of handling an instruction "when you want to" in the same way as it handles "dirt on my shirt => conditioning says that dirt on my shirt should be removed => action: remove dirt".

Quantum non-determinism/divine will can't be ruled out, but I can't locate this, and the deterministic logic engine hypothesis fits what's observed.

Having starting the process of guiding, and having read the post are causes but not the only cause. Many other conditions must also be present: I must want to do what KevinD suggested, it must be a suitable time to do the exercise, I must have been born. There is a chain of causation going back to the beginning of time.

There could be free will within limitations of this framework but originating outside of it. If it exists, it has to be in the invisible zone where the decision of when to act is made.
The point is, I don't know if it's just me, but there doesn't seem to be any source of non-determinism at work. I seem to need to base the decision on thoughts or sensory input.
What is this “I” that seems to need to base decisions on anything?
Hypothesis 1: There's an "I" somewhere that can make these decisions.

Hypothesis 2: The mind received a thought and treated it as an objective: "Choose a random hand." It crunched its logic, and decided it needed to find something to base the decision on. The mind produced "I am doing this" feelings during this process, and awareness believed them.

One reason why I am inclined to believe this is that my own observations of life tell me that 99% of behaviour is conditioned. I assumed without any actual justification that the other 1% is free will, so maybe this has never been true.

So, progress, but work to do still.


Steve


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